Posts Tagged ‘Sergei Skripal’

Gordon Dimmack on Corbyn’s Pledge ‘No More Interventionist Wars’

October 24, 2018

Gordon Dimmack is a left-wing vlogger with a particular interest in disability issues. In this piece from the 27th September 2018, he gives his enthusiastic approval, with some reservations, to Corbyn’s speech at the Labour conference. Although he strongly supports all of Corbyn’s speech, in this video he concentrates specifically on the Labour leader’s proposed new foreign policy, as it particularly shows the difference between Labour and the Tories. After making these points briefly at the very beginning, he then moves on to a brief clip of that part of Corbyn’s speech. Corbyn says

Britain’s relationship with the rest of the world, our foreign policy, is no longer sustainable. We’re entering a new, fast-changing and more dangerous world, including the reckless attacks in Salisbury, which the evidence painstakingly assembled by the police points to the Russian state. When president Trump takes the US out of the Paris accord and tries to scrap the Iran nuclear deal, moves the US embassy to Jerusalem and pursues an aggressive nationalism and trade wars, then he’s turning his back on international cooperation and even international law.

We need a government in Britain that not only keeps the country safe, but can also speak out, speak out for democratic values and human rights. Today’s Conservative government continues to collude with the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen, turning a blind eye to the evidence of war crimes on the devastating suffering of millions of civilians. That’s why I was honoured to attend a vigil this week held in Liverpool by the Yemeni community in protest against what is taking place.

Corbyn has received applause before in this speech, but at this point it becomes a standing ovation. He continues

Labour’s foreign policy will be driven by progressive values and international solidarity, led by our international team of Emily Thornberry, Kate Osselmore and Neil Griffith. This means no more reckless wars of intervention after Iraq or Libya, it means putting negotiation before confrontation, diplomacy before tub-thumping threats. And it means championing human rights and democracy everywhere, not just where it’s commercially convenient. And working to resolve the world’s injustices, not standing idly by, or worse, fueling them in the first place.

He’s also applauded during this section, which is the end of the part of his speech included in the video.

Dimmack then goes on to the make the point that Corbyn was absolutely correct when he said that the UK’s foreign policy was unsustainable. It is, That’s why we’re in all these wars in the Middle East. Because it’s all about the oil, the petrodollar and a natural gas pipeline that has to go through Syria to supply Europe. And in answer to those, who deny this, the value of the world’s reserve fund is based upon it. And it isn’t sustainable, because oil and gas, fossil fuels, are the very products leading to the destruction of this planet. He argues that we have to move away from these wars in countries we shouldn’t be involved in and take care of our own country.

He is critical of Corbyn’s comment about the evidence in the Skripal poisoning pointing to the Russian state. This has ruined his speech for Dimmack, but he believes Corbyn has to say it, as if he didn’t, that would be the headlines in the paper the next day.

Dimmack liked the fact that Corbyn called out Trump, and pointed out that you don’t get Tweezer calling out Trump. You get them sycophantically licking his a**e like Boris Johnson does. And people like Jeremy Hunt meeting Kissinger. Dimmack praises Corbyn for calling Trump out on moving away from the Paris accords, scrapping the nuclear deal with Iran and moving the embassy to Jerusalem and states that you won’t find Tweezer doing the same. He predicts that in the Tory conference the following week we’ll get Tweezer offering Trump an olive branch in the hope of a trade deal.

Dimmack also praises him for condemning the war in Yemen, and states that while he’s critical of standing ovations, this one was definitely warranted. Dimmack makes the point that this is a proxy war that the West is allowing. We could stop it at any time. The Saudi planes wouldn’t even be able to take off unless we and the Americans gave our permission.

Dimmack is less impressed by Corbyn’s statement that the foreign policy would be run by Emily Thornberry. Although she’s an ally of Corbyn, she was mentioned in an article by the Electronic Intifada about the decision at the conference to freeze arms sales to Israel and other, similar countries like Saudi Arabia. Despite her closeness to Corbyn, Thornberry’s a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel and opposed the decision. The party also condemned the killing of civilians by the Israelis on the ‘March for Freedom’ protest. Dimmack would like to know who the source for the Intifada’s article was, as they are not named.

Dimmack states that Corbyn’s pledge that Britain would no longer engage in interventionist wars is what we all wanted him to say. He makes the point that Libya was ‘liberated’ in 2012, and that now there is a slave trade there. An open air slave trade in the markets. He goes on to say that this is ironic, as Reagan’s chief of staff for the CIA, Bill Casey, was under investigation at the time Reagan held his first meeting with him and the other chiefs, because he was suspected of instigating a coup in Libya to oust Colonel Gaddafy. One of the lies the Agency was spreading to destabilise Gaddafy’s regime was that Gaddafy was involved in a slave trade with Myanmar. And then after they get rid of Gaddafy within a few years there is an open slave trade in Libya.

Dimmack approves of Corbyn substituting negotiation for aggressive action, as you can’t solve anything without lines of communication, and the way he attacked Israel and the Saudis without explicitly singling them out. He goes on to state that the newspapers, especially online, were unanimous in their acclaim of Corbyn’s speech. Even the Torygraph, which said it was his best speech yet. Dimmack says that with this going on, it’s no wonder that within 90 minutes to a couple of hours following it that the government leaked details that one of the two men accused of poisoning the Skripals was commended or given a medal by Putin. He leaves his audience to make up their own minds about it.

Dimmack states that while there are some things he doesn’t like about the speech, it’s what he wanted to hear, and it’s a radical shift in our country’s foreign policy. And when people hear Corbyn speak, he wins votes. Unlike the opposition, who, like the Democrats and Hillary, don’t want Tweezer to campaign as whenever she does, her approval rating goes down. He then predicts that Tweezer at the Tory conference in the next few days would have a more difficult time than Jezze did.

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News Rottweiler Richard Madeley Throws Gavin Williamson Off Programme for Not Answering Question

May 31, 2018

This is a turn up for the books. Richard Madeley is probably the last person I would have considered an aggressive, uncompromising interviewer, trying to hold the government and the authorities to account. But on ITV’s Good Morning on May 29th, 2018, Madeley showed he was not prepared to put up with Gavin Williamson’s repeated failure to answer his questions about the Skripal poisoning. And so, rather than let him continue, Madeley ended the interview, wishing him good luck with his project for Africa.

Mike put up a piece about this yesterday, remarking that not only had Williamson not answered the question, he was carrying on with a smug smirk on his face. Mike wrote of Williamson’s refusal to answer the question

He was deliberately withholding, not only his opinion on his ill-chosen words about the Russian government, but information on whether the Conservative government acted prematurely in blaming Russia for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

The Tory narrative that the Russian government was responsible has collapsed beneath a barrage of factual information suggesting otherwise, with no facts to support it.

If Mr Williamson had admitted his words were ill-advised, he would have been accepting that the anti-Russia stance was a mistake – and opening the UK government to an investigation into its own activities. So he was between a rock and a hard place.

And he thought he could brazen it out on TV because mainstream media interviewers are now notoriously soft on Tories.

Mike noted that this deference to the Tories had changed with Madeley’s actions, but was unsure whether it would spread to the Beeb because so many of the Corporation’s top news team are Conservatives. However, the public are also turning away from soft interviewers like Andrew Marr and Evan Davis, and this may force the BBC to adopt a tougher stance when interviewing Tory politicians.

Mike’s article also compares it to the incident, 21 years ago, when Paxman ended an interview with Michael Portillo because the future presenter of programmes about train journeys around the globe refused to answer a question on his party’s policy towards the single European currency. The incident happened in a good-humoured way, and Paxo was probably able to do it, according to Mike, because Portillo was out of Parliament at the time, and his political influence was due to be confined for the foreseeable future to being one of the commenters on Andrew Neil’s The Week.

Mike’s article is at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/30/the-madeley-moment-is-it-really-21-years-since-an-interviewer-dismissed-an-evasive-politician-for-failing-to-answer-a-question/

RT, as well as a number of other news sites on YouTube, also reported the incident. Here’s RT’s video of it.

Way back in the 1990s Jeremy Paxman was called a ‘Rottweiler’ for his persistent, aggressive questioning of politicians on his show, and his refusal to take any nonsense from them. Which was shown in his repeated questioning of Michael Howard whether he overruled another Tory minister. His ‘take no prisoners’ style of questioning enraged the Tories, and Michael Heseltine actually walked out during one interview, ‘angrily tossing his mane’ in the words of Ian Hislop later that week on Have I Got News For You.

The Tories responded as they usually do by claiming that Paxman and the BBC were biased against them. There was an article in the Spectator comparing Paxman to a similar TV interviewer in the Republic of Ireland, who went in hard with establishment politicians, but didn’t dare adopt the same stance with Sinn Fein or spokesmen for the IRA. And so eventually Paxo left Newsnight, and went instead to harass university students on University Challenge.

Then when Labour got it a few years later, the Tories showed once again how two-faced they are by lamenting how sad it was that Paxo had departed from political journalism, because now the country needed him to interrogate Blair and co with his aggressive refusal to allow his guest to get away with talking nonsense.

And so began the situation that prevails today, when members of the government turn up on television with the attitude that they can more or less say what they want, without being corrected or pressed by the interviewer. Some of us can still remember how Nicky Morgan repeatedly refused to answer one of the Beeb’s interviewer’s questions when she was minister for education. This was when Tweezer decided that every school should be an academy. The interviewer asked her a question about the number of academies, that had to be taken over again by the state, and all Thicky Nicky did was to repeat a line about how terrible it would be if children continued to be badly educated through attending failing state schools. In fact, the number of failing academies was high – about 21 or so, I seem to recall. Thicky Nicky clearly couldn’t admit that, and so she carried on repeating government propaganda. Just as the interview ended, the journo said, ‘You know the number’. He was clearly annoyed and frustrated at Morgan’s failure to answer the question, and made it very clear.

It would solve a lot of problems if interviewers did adopt a more uncompromising stance, and did throw politicians off the programme if they didn’t answer their questions. Reith was an authoritarian, who supported Mussolini, but he was right when he said that broadcasting to the nation was a privilege, not a right. This is a democracy, and the role of the press and the media – the Fourth Estate, as they’ve been called – has traditionally been to hold the government to account. Of course, this collapsed at least a decade ago, when the media became dominated by a very few big proprietors, who made sure that their papers represented their interests and those of the Conservative government, including Blair’s Thatcherite New Labour.

It’s good now that some TV interviewers are tired of giving the government such soft treatment. And as I said, it’s remarkable that this should come from Richard Madeley, who would be the last person I would have thought would do it. But obviously he decided he’d had enough, and something snapped. All hail Madeley, news Rottweiler. And I hope this attitude carries on and spread, so that we get something like the media we deserve in this country, rather than the one that’s foisted on us by the Beeb, Murdoch, Dacre and the Barclay Twins.

Steve Topple: Did Andrew Marr Cover for Boris Johnson?

May 15, 2018

Steve Topple, one of the great people behind the Canary, posted this video as far back as April 8 2018. However, it’s only just come up on my search through YouTube.

We’ve all had profound doubts about Marr’s impartiality, as several times it’s been very clear that there is a profound anti-Labour bias there. Or at least anti-Corbyn. This raised the issue again.

Topple asks the question because, on his Sunday morning politics programme, Marr was discussing the Skripal poisoning with a couple of female journalists. One of them is the notoriously biased Julia Hartley-Brewer. In the piece of the programme Topple shows here, they’ve obviously been talking about Boris Johnson’s claim in a German interview that the Russians were responsible. Marr, however, denies it. He says he’s not trying to speak for Johnson, but states that he thinks Johnson only identified the toxin as Novichok. He then goes on to say that the Russians were oversensitive, and so declared that Boris had accused them.

This is followed by a piece from the German interview, where BoJo is shown saying exactly the opposite of what Marr has just said. Boris declares very firmly that the Russians are responsible.

You could be charitable, and say that Marr or his researchers were simply mistaken, and didn’t remember properly what our great Foreign Secretary really said. After all, Marr said ‘I think’ before making his statement to excuse Boris of blaming the Russians, which suggests he wasn’t sure.

But as there is a strong and pervasive Tory bias on the Beeb’s news programming, and there really does seem a concerted effort by this country’s military-industrial complex to drive us into a war with Putin’s Russia, I am not convinced.

It might be an honest mistake, but it looks to me like more government misinformation on behalf of the Tories and the war party.

Steve Topple: The BBC Is No Longer Fit for Purpose

April 19, 2018

This is another interesting video I found on YouTube. It’s from RT’s Sputnik programme, hosted by George Galloway and his co-host, Gayatri. This is a clip from a longer interview with Steve Topple from The Canary, a website dedicated to supporting Jeremy Corbyn. Galloway and Topple talk about how the Canary’s increasing success and popularity is paralleled by an increasing number of the British public becoming disillusioned with the established media, and particularly the BBC. Galloway suggests that the last straw for many was possibly when the Beeb ignored the latest developments from Porton Down in the Skripal poisoning, including Boris Johnson, and it was left to Sky News, of all people, to report them. Which is something neither Galloway nor Topple thought they’d ever say or think. Topple states that if the BBC was a private broadcaster, then it could do whatever it liked. But its the public broadcaster, and so he doesn’t want to pay for its rubbish and nonsense.

Topple’s right about more people turning to alternative news sources, because they don’t trust the mainstream media. It isn’t just the Canary to which people are looking for their news. They’re getting it from a whole range of blogs and vlogs, like Mike over at Vox Political, Tom at Another Angry Voice, the Disability News Service, DPAC and many other groups and individuals. I don’t want the BBC to be privatised, but at the moment its status as the established, state broadcaster is part of the means by which it seeks to pass its very biased reporting as truthful. It’s the state broadcaster, and is required by its charter to be impartial. Thus, whatever it says on the news, is somehow to be regarded as authoritative.

Of course, it isn’t impartial by any means. It’s reporting of the Labour party, and particularly its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been massively biased. Any number of people have complained, only to get pompous letters back in reply repeating the same platitudes that the Beeb is impartial, and how dare you suggest they aren’t.

But thanks to the internet, an increasing number of people are coming to realise how biased the mainstream media is, including the Beeb. It’s why governments and big corporations are trying to crack down on alternative news sources under the pretext of rooting out ‘fake news’. And why more people are taking their news from sites like the Canary and Mike’s, despite the media’s best attempts to vilify Corbyn.

RT: International Chemical Weapons Export Says Small Amount of Novichok Would have Killed Skripal

April 12, 2018

I found this little video from RT on YouTube. It’s just under a minute long, and is a snippet from their interview with Olivier Lepick of the Foundation for Strategic Research. Lepick states that Novichok is immensely poisonous – 5-8 times more so than the next most poisonous chemical. A small amount of it would have killed Sergei Skripal ‘for sure’. But, he continues, until we know how it was delivered, we cannot be sure what amount poisoned him and his daughter, Yulia.

The story that the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok by the Russians looks increasingly dodgy with each passing day. As Mike’s pointed out, this is a chemical that is so toxic, a small amount will kill tens, if not hundreds. And yet the only people poisoned were the Skripals and the policeman, who found them. And they’re recovering.

The Tory accusation that it’s been positively identified as coming from Russia has been denied by Porton Down, who are suffering a catastrophic loss of morale thanks to government pressure to make them issue statements that aren’t true. Just as Blair put pressure on MI6 to fake the ‘dodgy dossier’ so he had a pretext for the Iraq invasion.

But the Tories and the rest of the EU leaders are still banging away, accusing Russia. Despite the fact that his accusation no longer holds water, Boris Johnson has refused to meet the Russian ambassador. As people have pointed out, it’s probably because he can’t bring himself to say ‘sorry’.

I honestly don’t know what’s going on with the Skripals. But it looks to me very much like it’s being used as a pretext to force a confrontation with Putin. And that’s purely for the benefit of the western multinationals, who want to get their claws into the Russian economy, not for any reason of national security.

Craig Murray on RT Criticising Government’s Lie and Half-Truths on Skripal Poisoning

April 4, 2018

Craig Murray was our ambassador to Uzbekistan, before he fell foul of the government and establishment for standing up and recommending that we shouldn’t do deals with them because it was an oppressive dictatorship. Murray’s been fiercely criticising the official line that the substance used to poison the Skripals was manufactured in Russia. In this short interview with RT, which is just over five minutes long, he further tears apart the government’s accusations of Russian responsibility.

Murray states that he was told by people in the Foreign Office two weeks ago that they couldn’t say that Russia manufactured the poison. He talks about how there was pressure on Porton Down to say it was Russian, but the latest statement by the government slightly amending their stance is nothing more than information management. The government was aware that the International Chemical Weapons Authority were going to issue a statement that there is no evidence the Russians were responsible, and so modified their own statements about it accordingly. The RT interviewer asks him about the poison, and whether it is so complex and difficult to manufacture that it requires the resources of a state. Murray replies that there are at least half a dozen states that could manufacture the Novichoks nerve agent. As for it being too complicated for anyone, he cites Prof. Collum in New York, a chemist, who said that any of his postgraduate students could have made it.

He also talks about a film that has been broadcast stating the government’s opinion on the poisoning. He observes that the end of the film looks like it has been tacked on. It is as though the film makers were also pressured to add a bit more to their film in order for it to support the government’s line.

The RT interviewer then mentions that Murray was an ambassador to Uzbekistan, and asks if the Uzbeks could have manufactured the poison. Murray repeats that half a dozen states could, and says that there was indeed a chemical weapons plant in Uzbekistan. This was dismantled by the Americans, and he attended the party that was held when they had finished the job. The materials were then taken back to America, so the Americans certainly have the ability to manufacture the poison. The facility, however, was soviet, not Russian, and there were people of many nationalities working in it, including Ukrainians. They have now returned to the Ukraine, so that country now possesses the knowledge and ability to manufacture the poison.

He also tears apart the statement of one other country, which denied that they produced the poison. He notes that they didn’t say that they couldn’t make it, only that it wouldn’t have come from them, because their security was too tight.

Murray states that what is needed in Salisbury poisoning is a proper criminal investigation with all the resources these have. But this has not been done. Instead, the government has leapt in, with little thought or evidence, to accuse the Russians in order to increase the Cold War tensions with Russia and create a confrontation with them.

Will Killary and the Generals Get Their War with Russia?

March 27, 2018

The news yesterday that a number of EU countries had followed Britain’s lead and expelled Russian diplomats is alarming. This is ratcheting up the tension with Russia to Cold War levels. Despite the lack of definitive evidence that the Russians were behind the poisoning of the Skripals, May and nearly the rest of the countries in the EU have decided that Putin is responsible. And I’m afraid that the tensions they’re fomenting will ultimately lead to war.

Killary began all this nonsense about Russia interfering in western elections as a way of diverting blame from herself for his massive failure to convince Americans to vote her. She’s a horrible candidate – a massively privileged, neoliberal corporatist, who has absolutely no sympathy for the working class, and whose policies on drugs with her husband actively damaged the Black community. She took working class votes for granted and didn’t even bother to campaign in many traditional Democrat states. Instead, she did what Blair did over here and went chasing the upper and upper-middle classes. As a result, she alienated many voters, who would otherwise have voted Democrat. She did get a million or so votes more than Trump, but lost through the machinations of the Electoral College, a very undemocratic institution that was originally set up to allow slave-holding states to count their slaves as less than human so they would have voting equality with free states. She could have blamed the electoral and demanded its abolition. Many others have. But she didn’t. Obviously, she’s quite happy with that very undemocratic part of the American electoral system.

Unable to accept her responsibility for losing the election, and a strong supporter of the status quo, she turned to blaming Russia. In doing so, she joined a number of far right organisations, including eugenicist groups founded by former Nazis, who believed that the poor and Blacks are biologically unfit and so should be denied state welfare. And even before she lost the election, she showed a very strong hostility to Russia.

From reading articles in Counterpunch, it appears that the current policy in the White House and the Pentagon is for ‘full spectrum dominance’. That means that America should be the world’s only superpower, with an unchallenged military dominance of the rest of the world. What America, and its elite leader, including Hillary Clinton, fear is the rise of the multipolar world. They cannot tolerate the emergence of political and economic rivals, such as Russia, or China, or India, for that matter. Hence the massive increase in military spending. Under Obama’s administration, Hillary’s foreign policy towards Russia and China was militantly hostile and she seemed keen to ramp hostility to both these nations to dangerous levels.

And on this side of the Pond, various NATO generals also forecast war with Russia. One of them, a deputy-head of NATO, actually had a book published a couple of years ago entitled 2017: War with Russia, in which he predicted last year that Russia would invade Latvia, and this would spark a war between Russia and NATO. He predicted it would all happen last May. Fortunately, the month came and went and Russia didn’t. But NATO troops were massing on Russia’s borders, which would serve as a provocation to the Russians. Russia is encircled by NATO bases, and has sent military advisers to the Fascist regime in Ukraine.

As I’ve blogged many times before, much of this renewed American hostility to Russia has nothing to do with concerns about democracy and human rights. It’s purely economic. The American multinationals that poured millions into backing Yeltsin at the end of the Cold War did so in the expectation that the ensuing massive privatisation of Russian state assets would allow them to dominate the Russian economy. But Putin has stopped that. Thus the massive corporate anger against Putin’s Russia. Putin is a thug, who has his critics and opponents beaten and killed, but that’s not the reason the American political elite and their counterparts over here hate him.

I’m very much afraid that this latest round of expulsions will end by creating more tension, in a cycle that will end in a war with Russia, perhaps using a manufactured incident as a pretext for invading them. The pressure the government placed on Porton Down to state that the chemical used to poison the Skripals was definitely Russian is very, very similar to the pressure Blair and his cronies put on MI6 to ‘sex up’ the dodgy dossier and claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that he could launch within 45 minutes. He didn’t. The British and American publics were lied to, and despite massive opposition the west invaded Iraq. And the result has been nearly two decades of chaos and carnage.

And I’m afraid the same process is going on here to create another war for the benefit of the American military-industrial complex and big corporations desperate to get their hands on Russian resources and industries.

It needs to be stopped. Now. Before war really does break out, a war that could see millions die, and our beautiful planet turned into an irradiated cinder.

Kitty S. Jones on Cambridge Analytica’s Datamining of Facebook

March 23, 2018

Aside from the Skripal poisoning, one of the major issues this week has been Cambridge Analytica and their datamining of Facebook to get the personal particulars of something like 50 million people, so that they could be targeted for political manipulation. Kitty’s article is a long one, but she makes some very good points. Not least is that GCHQ and the other western intelligence services discussed ways of using the internet to target particular individuals to manipulate them or disrupt groups that posed a threat to national security. She also connects this to ‘behavioural economics’ and the infamous Nudge Unit, which uses subtle psychological techniques to manipulate people into making decisions the government wants. With those two, we are well into the kind of dystopian future, where a totalitarian government manipulates the minds of its subjects portrayed in the Beeb’s classic SF series, Blake’s 7. Some of this datamining appears to have been done to benefit Russian oil interests. Michelle, one of the great commenters here, posted this to her piece, commenting on the immense value of personal information on the Net:

“The Wiley disclosure certainly had quite a media make over, he sits in a trendy bare room with a big photo shoot light for the Guardian and in a graffiti tunnel for ITV news, yet with all his intellectual prowess his deductive reasoning interestingly falls short on his employer making a link with Russian oil: “It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?”

REF: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump

The spotlight on this company must be just the tip of the iceberg.

In 2010 I had blogged about the EU intending to make it clear how internet users would have their digital data exploited and the New York Times had a comment re the intended EU overhaul of privacy regulations. I had written that the publishers value was not based on content or brand but on the information that can be collected about each digital visitor, as we click away our preferences and online patterns are being delivered up to the advertising market because the ability to sell this information about us is the true value a publisher holds. Here is the comment in the New York Times (20 Nov 2010) about the E.U´s intention to overhaul the online privacy rules to protect personal data which would hamper the “development of services” – a great euphemism for snooping:

“Rules requiring Internet companies to secure users’ consent upfront could hamper the development of services that align online advertising with Web users’ personal interests, as reflected in the Web sites they visit or the preferences they express in social networks and other online forums. From a marketer’s perspective, this could dilute one of the big advantages of the Web over traditional media.”

REF: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/05/technology/05privacy.html?_r=2

Evidently the misuse of data has been understood for many years, (as you have pointed out Sue), I also noted in 2010 a New Scientist article: “EVERY move you make, every twitter feed you update, somebody is watching you. You may not think twice about it, but if you use a social networking site, a cellphone or the internet regularly, you are leaving behind a clear digital trail that describes your behaviour, travel patterns, likes and dislikes, divulges who your friends are and reveals your mood and your opinions. In short, it tells the world an awful lot about you.”

REF: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727701-100-social-networks-the-great-tipping-point-test/

So how did the ‘security services’ miss Cambridge Analytica’s flagrant misuse of data when it has been clearly understood even in the public realm for almost a decade? These supposed revelations at this juncture come at a time when the hype to cold war status is already far too high…”

Kitty’s article is at: https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2018/03/18/cambridge-analytica-the-commodification-and-marketisation-of-democracy/

And the Americans are not alone in using Cambridge Analytica, it seems. I found this report by RT about our government also using them and their parent company, SCL, to gather data on us. RT’s presenter, Polly Boiko, states that the two were hired by the Ministry of Defence, and paid for providing staff with training and for keeping government secrets on their computer, amongst other services. Yvette Cooper has demanded a wider investigation into their activities. They have also been hired by some very dodgy governments around the world. Like Kenya, where Cambridge Analytica was hired by the ruling party to gather data on its opponents, and create a psychological strategy that would allow them to hold on to power. The company has been accused of stirring up ethnic tensions as part of this. They were also hired by Ukraine to undermine the breakaway Donetsk Republic. This ended in failure, but the company’s report not only went to the Ukrainians who commissioned it, but was also shared with the British government. She concludes that the next stage of the scandal will probably be the company’s connections to the world’s governments.

This has been touched on today in the I newspaper, which reported that Israel had also hired the company to swing elections Nigeria and St. Kitts and Nevis.

This is a real threat to democracy, but I doubt that many people are paying attention, because of the way May and her team are ramping up tensions with Russia to distract everyone from just how terrible they are. And if the MOD have been using them to gather data on British citizens, then the immediate comparison that comes to my mind is with the Stasi and the other totalitarian secret police. It ain’t Corbyn who’s a threat to democracy, but Cambridge Analytica and their Tory government paymasters.

Vox Political: Were the Skripals Poisoned by Weedkiller?

March 23, 2018

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a very interesting post, wondering if the Skripals weren’t poisoned with a Novichoks nerve agent, but something far more prosaic: weedkiller. He notes that if a nerve toxin had been used, far more people would have been affected, and points out that the effects of the two types of poison are similar. It’s therefore possible that, far from being the victims of an assassination attempt by the Russian government, they were instead accidentally poisoned by a gardener.

One of his commenters, Wanda Lozinska, argues on the other hand that it is too much of a coincidence that the only victims of this poisoning were the Skripals. Sergei Skripal was a double agent, who’d betrayed a number of Russian spies to British intelligence and was therefore an enemy of the Russian state. However, she did state that weedkiller was also an ingredient of the Novichoks poison.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/03/23/what-if-the-skripals-were-poisoned-not-by-a-novichok-nerve-agent-but-by-a-weedkiller/

Reading this, I wonder if the Skripals were deliberately poisoned, but with weedkiller by somebody they had crossed, rather than Vladimir Putin. Sergei Skripal had many enemies, including the spies, whose identities he’d betrayed. It’s possible that one of them could have made the poison and then secretly administered it to them. As for Putin’s involvement in this affair, it’s been pointed out that Skripal served time in jail in Russia for his treachery. If Putin had wanted him killed, he surely would have done it there, rather than wait until the man was free and living in Britain.

Of course, it’s possible that the Skripals were killed on Putin’s orders, and you can probably think up a number of reasons why this should be so. Perhaps it wasn’t because of something he did, but because of what Putin feared he was going to do. But this is just speculation. We don’t know if Putin was responsible, and as more evidence appears, the less certain the Tories’ assertion that he was becomes. If the toxin was weedkiller, rather than nerve poison, then its far more likely that the Skripals were poisoned by a private individual, rather than a Russian agent with their arsenal of chemical weapons.

In any case, Jeremy Corbyn is right to demand more evidence before jumping to conclusions and ramping up tension with Russia.

As for the newspapers currently repeating these allegations uncritically, there’s an article attacking them and there cynical use of British jingoism in today’s Counterpunch. This notes a study of the newspapers in five European countries, which found that the Daily Mail and the Scum were the worst for their demonization of immigrants and asylum seekers. In any other nation, that would most probably be a badge of shame. But over here, I can imagine the hacks and corporate managers at these papers actually being proud of it.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/23/hitler-and-the-poisoning-of-the-british-public/

Craig Murray: Boris Lied When Claimed Porton Down Identified Salisbury Poison as Russian

March 23, 2018

My thanks to Michelle, one of the great commenters on this blog, for pointing this out.

Craig Murray, formerly our man in Uzbekistan, before he was thrown out and smeared for having a conscience about dealing with dictators, has an important post up at his blog. And it contradicts what Boris Johnson is trying to tell us all that the Russians are definitely responsible for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Porton Down have submitted their evidence at the court case, which was to decide if they could be permitted to take further blood samples from the Skripals for testing. Their evidence states

The Evidence
16. The evidence in support of the application is contained within the applications themselves (in particular the Forms COP 3) and the witness statements.
17. I consider the following to be the relevant parts of the evidence. I shall identify the witnesses only by their role and shall summarise the essential elements of their evidence.
i) CC: Porton Down Chemical and Biological Analyst
Blood samples from Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal were analysed and the
findings indicated exposure to a nerve agent or related compound. The samples
tested positive for the presence of a Novichok class nerve agent OR CLOSELY RELATED AGENT.

The emphasis is Murray’s. He points out that this means that Porton Down have not positively identified the toxin used as a Novichok, as it could be a closely related agent. And even if it were a Novichok, this would still not mean that it was necessarily manufactured in Russia. The poison could have been produced by any number of states or terrorist/ criminal organisations. This contradicts what Johnson has been telling the rest of the world, including the journos at the German magazine, Deutsche Welle, where he told them that the poison was very definitely Russian.

He concludes

This constitutes irrefutable evidence that the government have been straight out lying – to Parliament, to the EU, to NATO, to the United Nations, and above all to the people – about their degree of certainty of the origin of the attack. It might well be an attack originating in Russia, but there are indeed other possibilities and investigation is needed. As the government has sought to whip up jingoistic hysteria in advance of forthcoming local elections, the scale of the lie has daily increased.

On a sombre note, I am very much afraid the High Court evidence seems to indicate there is very little chance the Skripals will ever recover; one of the reasons the judge gave for his decision is that samples taken now will be better for analysis than samples taken post mortem.

Murray also states that for the last few days he’s come under a Denial Of Service cyberattack, as well as some form of ‘ghostbanning’ for his posts on Facebook and Twitter. He therefore asks people to reblog and repost his article, for which he waives all copyright.

Go to his blog at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/03/boris-johnson-a-categorical-liar/ for more information.